Good Poetry for Children of All Ages
Jack Prelutsky's Poetry
Who or what says,
"I'm ushered out of luncheonetts, the waitresses are rude. They fume,"We cannot feed you, for you'll finish all our food." or
"I'm plagued by a peculiar, purely pachhydermal plight - I find no socks and underwear that fit precisely right."
The elephant in Mr. Prelutsky's poem "Its Hard to Be an Elephant."
It sounds as if Jack is having a conversation with an elephant and the elephant is sharing his problem. The poem is funny and somehow easy for children to relate to. When the title is read, children immediately want to know why it is hard to be an elephant and they listen or read attentively to find out.
Another of Prelutsky's poems,
"The Egg," opens by saying, "If you listen very carefully, you'll hear the chicken hatching. At first there was scarcely a sound," and now we want to know, what else are we going to hear? The poem continues to tell us but what happens at the end is completely unexpected.
The book that I am reading from is titled: "Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face and other poems." It has over 80 poems with intriguing illustrations, activities to go along with the poems, and a CD with the reading of some of the poems. Music and sound effects surround the reading of the poems on the CD.
"Read Another One," The Children Demanded
I am reading to a group of children that I work with and they cannot wait to hear the next poem. There are so many poems to choose from. "My Dog is an Ugly Dog," or "I Saw a Brontosaurus, or "Ballad of a boneless Chicken." The children want to hear each of these but I choose "My Mother Made a Meat Loaf."
"My Mother made a meat loaf that provided much distress, she tried her best to serve it, but she met with no success," is how the poem starts.
The ways that his mom tries to cut the meat loaf kept the children laughing throughout the poem. Is she ever able to serve the meat loaf, well you will have to read the poem to find out.
Jack Did Not Like Poetry as a Boy
Jack Prelutsky was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1940. He went to school in the Bronx and did not really like school or poetry.
He had a pretty good singing voice and found that the "arts" appealled to him. He went to the High School of Music & Art, which was a better fit for this creative young man.
He went to college and managed to fail English three times and decided to drop out.
One of his favorite books as a child was "Wild Animals I Have Known" by Ernest Thomson Seton. In reading his poems I can tell that he loves the unique characteristics found in animals and shares his take of these characteristics in his poetry.
In his biography written on scholastic.com, he gives advice to young writers. Jack says to read, read, read, write, write, write, and keep a journal with you all the time to write down things you see and hear.
Poetry Writing with Jack Prelutsky
A wonderful poetry writing workshop is offered on parent's-choice.org, called "Poetry Writing with Jack Prelutsky." The workshop is divided into 4 steps.
Step 1: My Poem - illustrates the elements of a poem
Step 2: Brainstorming - stimulates imagination and creativity to find the topic of the poem
Step 3: Write your poem: Good conversation about how to write the poem
Step 4: Publish online - The poem will actually be published online
The information in each step really helped me to write a better poem. Children are exposed to very specific techniques in developing what is necessary to produce a good poem.
I challenge you to go to this site and write a poem. You will be surprised at the finished product.
Even though, as a child, Jack Prelutsky did not like poetry he made a developmental transition because he writes great poetry.
I have been reading poetry to children for over thirty years and his poems provoke good listeners and interested readers.